SACRAMENTO -- Mike Conley Jr. gets paid big bucks to make smart business decisions for the Memphis Grizzlies. Sometimes, that means feeding the hot hand of a teammate. Other times, it means breaking down the defense off the dribble.
Friday night at Golden 1 Center, Conley saw the Kings were going under screens, so he stepped back and started dropping 3-pointers.
"He was making shots," Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox said. "When a guy is making shots behind a screen, it's a tough shot, but it's something we know he can do."
Conley looked like a Splash Brother for the first three quarters, hitting 7 of 10 from long range as he took advantage of the Kings' scheme. There are times when the Kings flat out don't play defense, but going under on the pick was a conscious decision made coming into the game, and like any good veteran, Conley made his adjustment.
"We really put it on ourselves to start going over screens," Fox added. "It's a tough cover with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. It takes a lot of effort to do it."
In past years, the Kings might not have had the ability to make a mid-game adjustment. And even if they had, a player of Conley's experience would have had a counter move.
With the game on the line, Fox made a commitment to shut down his counterpart, and the results were stunning.
In the fourth quarter, Conley failed to score a single basket. Fox locked him down, forcing him into an 0-for-4 final frame as the Kings erased a nine-point deficit to come away with the win.
"In the second half, we really picked up our defensive intensity, and it started working," Fox said.
Fox has the ability to become one of the elite defensive point guards in the NBA. He has a rare mixture of speed and quickness to go with great size and length for the lead guard position. When he is determined on the defensive end, the 21-year-old out of the University of Kentucky is a handful.
When the Kings selected Fox with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, they did so with the understanding that he could be their starting point guard for the next decade. They had high hopes that he could become a special two-way player, but nobody saw it coming this early in his career.
In addition to the stymieing defense late, Fox managed to post 14 points, eight assists and five steals. He also swatted rookie big man Jaren Jackson Jr. on a dunk attempt, which was his 16th block of the season. More importantly, he helped lead the Kings to their 17th win of the season before Christmas.